Review: Six Months with the MagLite XL100 LED Flashlight

The Maglite XL100 is the first flashlight that uses an accelerometer as part of its user interace. If you click and hold the thumbswitch you activate the accelerometer and the XL100 becomes motion-sensitive, like a Wii controller or an iPhone. Turning your hand the way you’d turn a motorcycle throttle adjusts the current mode.

On the basic dimming mode turning your hand adjusts the beam strength. The other modes are SOS, Strobe, Nite Lite, Signal, and Lockout.

Neat stuff, if that’s your thing. The truth for me is that I pretty much just turn the light on to see things in the dark. A single mode is okay by me. If the light has a high beam and a low beam I feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven. If you’re like me and don’t need the motion sensor you can buy the Maglite XL50 and save 10 clams.

Pros

  • Incredibly bright. Brighter than my MagLite 3 D-cell LED. Brighter than my Surefire E2D Executive.
  • The machining and finish are extremely good. Better even than previous MagLite LED models.
  • Doesn’t have the candle feature of the Mini-Mags, but can tailstand on a smooth surface like a table.
  • With head removed it casts a gorgeous, even disc of light. My kids love it for shadow puppets and I like it for reading.
  • Plenty of modes that are easy to adjust thanks to the motion sensor.

Cons

  • AAA batteries have poor battery life. I prefer AA or CR123a cells.
  • Cylindrical, constant-diameter shape is slippery. The surface grooves run the length of the light, so they don’t keep the light from slipping forward or backward.
  • Because of the symmetrical shape it’s hard to tell which end is which by feel.
  • Focusing feature is really a de-focusing feature. If you loosen the cap the bright center disappears, but the rest of the beam doesn’t become appreciably brighter.
  • No lanyard ring.
  • According to this review the circuitry will gradually self-discharge the batteries over many months. That isn’t a problem for an everyday carry light that will have its batteries replaced every few months anyway. It does make the XL100 unsuitable as an emergency light for the glovebox, bug out bag, or household emergency kit.
  • The thumbswitch isn’t recessed. More than once I noticed that the light had gotten turned on in my pocket, or retrieved the light to find the batteries drained.

Wrap-up:  neat technology, but the body has terrible usability. You’d be better off with almost any LED flashlight from Fenix, NiteCore, or Surefire.

PreviouslyFlashlights, Y’all: Maglite’s Wii-like XL100 and Surefire’s First AA Light

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